I – a bud – opened to absorb
unknown pollen flowing in strange water
that rippled as it came, like a spring dancing into itself.
The sun that touched my petals was a furnace of care
where a fruit would pass to life.
But my mother holds onto dreams with the
ferventness of prayers; they are candles she
says I should not dim, my eyes shouldn’t
cease to behold. So
my body sits to learn the language of loss the
morning she hands me a cup.
I cannot yet feel rust eat into iron
or dead as liquid an unformed bone
but in the evening I am an empty house;
she has darkened the face of the sun with rain,
turning it into rusty-colored sunset,
the muddiness dropping from between
my legs, for from here starts the memory
of a budding fruit fell into the earth, a journey
into tunnels echoing with tears.
That night she sits me down to look at candles turned to
face the west, across an ocean and many lands where
my betrothed has gone to plant our dreams.
The light stings my eyes. Look into them, you’ve got
to let them shine. Till he comes back, she says.
But aren’t walls rabbits taking in their world? And the
neighbours’ ears the receivers of tape recorders the
fingers of a man returning from overseas would play,
pushing words out of them as if in exchange for the
daughters they offer on this platter chance has made?
He didn’t need to tell me a wilted flower cannot open
itself again to the sun or spring when an ocean broke it
waves on my face for the second time and the memory
of a grandchild became a siren blowing in
my mother’s head, the drifting shadow left behind the door,
the infant’s bones breaking in a mortar where pepper prepares
itself for the pot, the tearful whispering in the thatch ceiling, the
cry of an unseen child that made a woman a haunted house
before she finally escaped it for life: running from the bathroom
into the neighbour’s yard, her clothes forgotten were they had been .
Gabriel Etim has been previously published in Praxis and The Eunoia Review. He writes from Nigeria.